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Maternal and Fetal Health MRes

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Course description

Students will enjoy an exceptional teaching and learning experience, an opportunity to participate in high quality research at an early career stage and contribute to public-domain research output. They are encouraged to develop ambitious career aspirations in the clinical and laboratory sciences.

Special features

  • Opportunity for research experience at the clinical-scientific interface
  • Gain theoretical knowledge and an understanding of human pregnancy
  • Hands-on experience of cutting-edge technologies applicable to pregnancy and research, and transferable to other areas of medical research
  • Six-month research project providing students with an opportunity for in-depth analysis of a specific area of pregnancy research
  • Attending seminars in the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre and undertaking the tutorial series gives students a grounding in a wide range of pregnancy related issues
  • Provides training and experience in scientific writing and developing a research proposal

Additional course information

Maternal and fetal health research addresses the causes, diagnosis and treatments of disease in pregnancy. The Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre aims to find solutions through a holistic approach to understanding, managing and treating diseases affecting mothers and babies, and through training the next generation of researchers in an interdisciplinary research environment.

Diseases of pregnancy are major causes of mortality and morbidity in mothers and infants. Knowledge of causative mechanisms is poor, while treatments are conspicuously lacking. 60,000 women suffer pre-eclampsia (PE) world-wide per year, with many deaths. Following a pre-eclamptic pregnancy, a woman is at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. The lowest weight babies die; those that survive suffer neonatal illnesses, developmental delay and much higher risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic ailments later in life. Metabolic settings established in the womb are highly influential in determining lifetime health profile.

Obesity is increasing and is associated with poor pregnancy outcomes and programming effects later on.Teenage pregnancy is higher in the UK than any other European country and is associated with high rates of FGR. Stillbirth occurs in 1 in 200 pregnancies, amounting to 17 a day in the UK, mainly of unknown cause.

Teaching and learning

Students will benefit from individual and small group supervision by experienced academic staff with scientific and clinical backgrounds. Staff include internationally renowned experts in the discipline.

Coursework and assessment

Assessment is on coursework including a dissertation and a final thesis, marked by the supervisors and an independent MFH staff member under the scrutiny of an expert external examiner.

Course unit details

Research Methods Unit

A series of lectures and training workshops that provide an introduction to research and transferable skills such as experimental design and statistical assessment, IT skills, epidemiology, health and safety, scientific writing and communication and career development.

Practical Skills Unit

Training in a range of basic laboratory techniques applicable to medical research. Workshops include cell culture, histology and immunohistochemistry and molecular biology. Training in recording laboratory methods and analysis of results is provided.

Techniques Workshops

These workshops provide training and experience in specialised laboratory techniques applicable to pregnancy research, including placental nutrient transport, myography and placental sampling. The format will be small group learning, hands-on in the laboratory with an experienced tutor. Students prepare a laboratory write-up documenting the approach, methods, results, interpretation and area of application.

Tutorial Course Unit

Here students have an opportunity to learn about and discuss research in MFH and the clinical problems and basic science areas that are central to the discipline. Tutorials use a range of teaching styles, including taught seminars, debates and critiques of research papers. Assessment will be group oral presentations, leaflets, quizzes or written reports.

Literature review and research proposal

In weeks 1-2, students select a topic from a list of available options and meet with their supervisor. They then spend 13 weeks researching this area in depth, write a review of the current state of knowledge and how this was arrived at, and prepare a research proposal.

Research project

Students undertake a 27-week laboratory-based research project, formulating and then addressing a problem that has emerged from their literature project. Results are presented orally as 'work in progress' to an expert audience. A proposal for follow-up research is produced. This is the largest component of the course.

Clinical masterclass course unit

The Clinical Masterclass course unit is a 15 credit unit specifically designed for intercalated medical students. The unit consists of a series of seminars, workshops and e-learning.

This unit contributes to personal and professional development in the experience, knowledge and skills training required for effective clinical practice and success, with a strong emphasis on clinical academic research.

Areas covered include:

  • advanced Good Clinical Practice (GCP)
  • research governance and the regulatory framework for research
  • the Human Tissue Act
  • practical clinical ethics
  • patient and public involvement in research
  • diversity/equal opportunities in research/cultural competence
  • research creativity and entrepreneurialism
  • leadership (Practitioner, Partner and Leader roles)

Scholarships and bursaries

Masters of Research (MRes) bursaries

£2,500 bursaries are available toward tuition fee costs for 2014 entry for all home intercalating students undertaking the following School of Medicine MRes programmes:

  • Cardiovascular Health & Disease
  • Genetic Medicine
  • Maternal & Fetal Health
  • Medical Sciences
  • Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine
  • Translational Medicine

Bursaries are awarded based on application and performance at interview.

Course collaborators

Programme committee:

  • Professor JD Aplin (Programme co-Director)
  • Dr Rebecca Lee Jones (Programme co-Director)
  • Dr Ian Crocker
  • Dr Lynda Harris
  • Dr Karen Forbes
  • Dr Alexander Heazell


The course is delivered from a world class integrated laboratory, clinical research and teaching facility in the women¿s hospital on campus.  Students enjoy a dedicated study area equipped with WiFi and access to the adjacent staff tea room where lively informal interaction occurs with MFH staff.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Support Office. Email:

CPD opportunities

The course can be used by qualified and experienced professionals to update their knowledge of current developments in Maternal and Fetal Health, and acquire research skills.